Coming off Saturday night’s win over Rhode Island, Providence will take on two more local New England challengers in the coming week as they travel to Boston College on Tuesday and host UMass on Friday before a nine-day hiatus for final exams.
Here’s a look at what they can expect from both adversaries during “Mass week.”
Boston College – December 4, 2018
Now in his fifth season at the helm of the Boston College program, Jim Christian led the team to a 19-win season in 2016-17, their best since 2010-11. This season had been earmarked as the one in which the Eagles could return to the NCAA tournament behind the budding backcourt tandem of Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson, but Robinson proved to be ahead of schedule last season and ended up departing for the NBA, selected in the lottery (13th overall) by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Despite Robinson’s early departure, the Eagles are still off to a 6-1 start with a squad that is built around Bowman and getting surprisingly good production from their freshmen, specially Wynston Tabbs.
What’s been most impressive thus far isn’t just Bowman’s production – 19.4ppg, 6.7rpg, 3.6apg, 1.3spg, and 1.0bpg – but his efficiency even while being the overwhelming emphasis of every opponent’s scouting report. He’s shooting nearly 45% from the floor, 36% from the arc, and 84% from the free-throw line while only committing two turnovers per night. Tabbs is putting up 14.6ppg along with 4.9rpg, and 2.7apg while shooting 48% from the floor and 90% from the free-throw line.
Containing the BC guards, in that order – Bowman first then Tabbs – will be Providence’s primary defensive objectives on Tuesday night. It will begin by containing them off the dribble, and doing so without fouling, as both are aggressive drivers with physical styles who have been extremely efficient at the free-throw line. One area in which BC has been collectively less efficient is from behind the arc, as they’re shooting under 30% as a team. So regardless of what type of defenses Providence utilizes on Tuesday, expect them to close-out short and be in gaps for the most part.
While BC hasn’t shot the ball well, their offense is nonetheless operating at an efficient level, in large part because they have consistently taken care of the ball and been able to get to the free-throw line. Their lack of turnovers has also helped them on the defensive end, where they currently rank in the top 20% of division I teams in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency, in large part because they defending well in transition, grinding out longer possessions, and forcing teams into shooting a very low percentages on their two-point field-goal attempts.
They’ve also done a very good job on the defensive glass. Steffon Mitchell, a 6-foot-7 southpaw forward, is averaging 9 boards per night while 6-foot-11 junior Nik Popovic is averaging 6.3rpg. Again though, their guards have made a big difference in this area as the collective physicality and toughness of Bowman and Tabbs has allowed them to pull down a combined 11.6 rebounds per game, which has again prohibited opposing teams from getting out in transition.
Put it all together and the blueprint for Providence is to contain Boston College’s guards without fouling, be in the gaps and clog the lane defensively, be patient on the offensive end and prepared to match BC’s physicality for 40 minutes.
UMass – December 7, 2018
The Minutemen come into the week with a 5-3 record and will meet Holy Cross on Tuesday prior to traveling to Providence on Friday.
Not unlike Boston College, UMass has been particularly reliant on one guard so far this season in junior Luwane Pipkins who is stuffing all columns of the stat sheet to the tune of 19.6ppg, 6.4apg, 5.6rpg, and 1.8spg. His usage rate is incredibly high as Pipkins has his fingerprints all over almost everything Matt McCall’s team does offensively. What makes him such a tough cover is the versatility in his attack. He’s a three-range threat who shoots it (41% 3pt) just as well as he makes plays for himself and others.
Where UMass differs from BC is in how well they spread the floor. They’re shooting almost a combined 38% from behind the three-point line and making almost ten threes per night. In other words, they have the capability to getting hot on just about any given night, which is a dangerous proposition for a team that typically likes to utilize a lot of zone like the Friars do.
Carl Pierre and Curtis Cobb, both Massachusetts natives who will be especially energized to play in the Dunkin Donuts Center, are both double-figure scorers shooting 41% and 36% from behind the arc respectively while Rutgers transfer Jonathan Laurent gives them a stretch-four type. Rashaan Holloway is a wide-body in the middle and constant double-double threat.
The Minutemen don’t just shoot the ball well; they play fast, give Pipkins a lot of room to operate, and then play off his initial attack and reads. Transition defense will be a big theme for Providence on Friday, and, by association, shot selection, as long contested shots could lead to the type of long rebounds that could ignite UMass’ break.
Defensively, UMass rates right in the middle of the division I pack, but they are very conservative in terms of how seldom they look to force turnovers. That is, in large part, due to a relative lack of depth, which could be an area that the Friars look to exploit, especially along the frontline.
So again, the Friars’ top priority will be to keep a star guard in check, but this time they’ll need to account for multiple spot-up shooters while doing it. Conversely, they may look to play through their bigs more on the offensive end, both testing Holloway’s mobility away from the basket and then the size and physicality of his understudies.
Boston College and UMass present two unique challenges this week for Providence. They’re each well coached, armed with a truly elite guard in the backcourt, and loaded with motivation as they look to knock off a Friar team that has been at the top of New England for the last couple of seasons.